dear reaction, can we have a plan?

2018-1103 OBT_Blog Post_plan.jpg

It’s here. This amazing, pell-mell, wild-and-woolly stretch from Halloween to New Year’s Day.

So much fun.

So intense.

So exhausting.

And because there is all this fun-making to be done on top off all the regular stuff we do, something has to give.

Sleep, usually.

Alone time, often.

Planning, almost entirely.

My immediate reaction to overwhelm is to chuck planning right out the window and just go. Just do. Just make things happen get things done squeeze this in and fall into bed at some point hoping I can cram in a little more around the edges tomorrow.

Maybe you recognize this reaction?

I had a conversation with my Reaction a couple of weeks ago. I’m going to share it here, in case your reaction would like to listen in.

Reaction, I understand you, and I actually appreciate your willingness to act like a sugar-addicted squirrel so that we can get everything done. You are trying to help.

You will kick and scream that we are wasting time, but I’m going to sit myself in this chair and map out the day. And the week. And give myself a little heads up about the rest of the year. I know this will freak you out, but this is actually the very moment we need a plan most.

I understand that the plan will change on the fly 27 times this week, including 4 times today before noon. I understand that we will not complete everything we set out to do. I understand that the 15 minutes, 30 minutes, entire hour we spend planning now is 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an entire are-you-kidding-me hour that we will not be getting something done. All of this is okay.

Reaction, you are strangling my solar plexus and swearing loudly. Please take a breath.

Here’s why this is okay: Because with a plan, the things we are doing will be the most important things.

When we go plan-less, I’m sorry to say that we sometimes do things that don’t matter as much because they seem easier in the moment and we can feel like we’re still getting something done—and then we’re screwed later when all the big stuff comes at us. When we go plan-less, we waste more time with extra driving and extra communications and extra forgetting of things we need later in the day. When we go plan-less, we are more easily seduced by the big bright burning fire of something urgent that could probably work itself out instead of tending to the thing we really need to do today to be ready for the most important thing two weeks from now.

I hear your whimpering, Reaction. You’re thinking about how stressful it can be to look at the plan, the checklist, the roadmap at the end of the day or the week or the month and see all the things we didn’t get to. You don’t want that for me. You’d rather I not see. Thank you.

But you may not know that it actually helps me to see all that undone stuff. It’s not fun—though I do get to see all the stuff that got done, too. But at least I can better prioritize the next day or the next week. And I can get a reality check about just how magical my thinking really is. I can even decide to jettison some stuff completely, and then we don’t have it on the list anymore at all.

Yes, I’m hearing you, Reaction. You’re worried that we won’t get back to people quickly enough, that we won’t make the right fun happen at the right time, that we’ll disappoint them—our colleagues and friends and families.

Okay. That may happen some, but you know it almost always does anyway. And if we have a plan, then at least we can see it coming. And we can give those people a heads up: I won’t have it until next week; I can’t get there by 5 but I can get there by 6 tomorrow will that work?; Yes we’ll put the lights on the house and it’ll be a little later than we did it last year.

It ain’t perfect. But it feels better than just ignoring it all until someone is sweating or screaming or crying in our face.

You’re still sad, Reaction. Are you thinking that all this planning means we’re just going to work with the efficiency of an assembly line through the entire holiday season? It can feel like that when we’re making the plan, I know. But look: There’s a walk with friends on that plan. And there’s making Thanksgiving pies with kiddo. And there’s a night out for drinks, and a dinner date, and lunch with Mama, and driving around to look at the holiday lights. They’re part of the plan, dude. And they’re way more likely to happen this way.

Shhhhh. Can we still do things spontaneously? Yes, of course. And we’ll be able to do it without so much guilt. Because we can look at the plan and know for sure what—if anything—we’re giving up or delaying to do it. If we like spontaneity so very much, we can put some open time in the plan, too. Sure, we can do that.

Hey, Reaction? I still need you. There will be moments in the next few months when I have to go off-plan for an afternoon or a couple of days. That will happen, and you will get me through.

A plan will not mean there is only shiny and happy and peaceful, with well-met deadlines, delighted children, and a beautifully appointed Thanksgiving table.

But let’s save your energy for now, Reaction.

Yes. For now, let’s spend a little time every day with our plan.